Free Rhetorical Analysis Of Stanford Speech Given By Steve Jobs Essay Sample

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Rhetoric, Apple, Steve Jobs, Public Relations, Audience, Speech, Business, Ethos

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2021/03/25

Steve Jobs’ commencement address to Stanford University students was iconic; he only needed to use one mode of persuasion. His approach to rhetoric was primarily in pathos conveyed as anecdotes which were a call to action for these students. Steve Jobs was an excellent presenter and visionary leader and was able to sell products from all three companies that he built: Apple, Pixar and Nexus. However, within this speech he was not selling a product, he was selling himself. In the commencement address Jobs stylized his rhetoric by using many different rhetorical devices particularly epistrophe, anapostrophe, hypophora and kairos to make it both understandable and memorable. Although there are some instances of ethos to show his character pathos is the primary mode of persuasion. In his speech, Steve Jobs also used concepts of birth, life, and death to build his rhetoric. As a speaker, he was successful at using pathos and ethos to build his persuasive argument. Logos on the other hand, was not developed or utilized. The use of this rhetoric was well employed for his particular audience of new graduates.
“Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories” (Jobs, 2005). The use of threes in speech allows an easier digestion and is often employed in various types of marketing from politicians with great success (Gallo, 2014). This rhetorical device allowed Steve Jobs to set the mood and capture the audience’s attention. However, in the past Jobs used this tool, when he was on stage for a product launch. “One consistent element of all Apple presentations is the “rule of three” (Gallo 2014). The simple introduction combined with the rule of three is likely one of the reasons that people enjoyed this speech as it told the audience, it would be quick and memorable. Additionally, the use of personal anecdotes allowed him to describe features of himself that connected to the overall message.
In the first anecdote Jobs said his mother ‘felt very strongly that [he] should be adopted’ (Jobs, 2005). This gave context to his life, especially on how he became an emotional person and a visionary leader (Westley 1989). However, with this phrase he was evoking pathos from the audience. This was a commonality of several of his speeches where he used the pathos rather than concrete reasoning and this was what made him different from other leaders in his generation (Westley 1989). For example, people did not need to know the technical specifications of the iphone to know it was better better; they simply had to feel it. From the first anecdote, Jobs set the mood that this would be a very emotional speech. He used the rhetorical device of epistrophe with “connecting the dots” and then anastrophe by inverting the order to make it more meaningful for the subject (Jobs 2005). With the first anecdote, Jobs told of his rejected birthright and evokes pathos in the audience.
The second anecdote started to deliver some ethos but still contained mostly pathos. Jobs told how he started the Apple computer company and eventually built the iconic ‘Macintosh’, that changed the history of computers (Belk 2005). He built some ethos by explaining how he was successful. He used the rhetoric device arete, meaning “excellence of any kind,” and he was excellent at what he did. However, this successful track stopped when he got fired from Apple just before his 30th birthday. Using hypophora, he turned to the audience and called out to his old adversaries saying, “How can you get fired from a company you started?” (Jobs 2005) When he gave the commencement address, he had returned to Apple, but he was likely still bitter about leaving. In this story, he again evokes pathos from the audience when he talked about being fired and finding what he loved. Then he makes his rhetorical point: “As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it“ (Jobs 2005). Again, he used primarily pathos to persuade the audience rather than ethos or logos.
Jobs’ final story used to continue his heavy use of pathos. He talked briefly about his experience with cancer and how the possibility of death was a great motivator for his life. Steve Jobs uses his own disease and the possibility of death to motivate these young graduates into doing something. Here he stated “time is limited“ and plead to the audience, asking them to do something with their lives (Jobs, 2005). Using pity as a rhetoric device was not difficult to use as death is eminent for everyone. No one had ever escaped death, and none of the students wanted to die. Again, Jobs found another unique way to use the same rhetorical device: pathos.
Steve Jobs was an emotionally intelligent individual and understood his audience better than other people (Paczkowski 2012). He used primarily pathos to deliver his speech. In his rhetoric, he did not need to develop any logical arguments to build logos. Logos was something he had not used to sell products successfully in the past, and he did not use it in this speech either. With this particular audience, Steve Jobs primarily used pathos and several rhetorical devices, but he never developed logos to successfully deliver rhetoric to this audience. This rhetorical analysis shows that you do not need to use all the rhetorical methods of pathos, ethos, and logos to give a valuable speech but it may be possible to choose only one under the right circumstances. The person that is giving this type of speech needs to be gifted and it may only work with a specific audience. Readers can use this information to observe how a person can utilize pathos in many different ways to successfully manipulate people’s emotions. This type of persuasion was effectively used to sell Apple products and Steve Jobs himself.


Cheney, George. "The rhetoric of identification and the study of organizational communication." Quarterly journal of speech 69.2 (1983): 143-158.
Belk, Russell W., and Gülnur Tumbat. "The cult of Macintosh." Consumption markets & culture 8.3 (2005): 205-217.
Jobs, Steve. You've got to find what you love. Stanford Commencement Speech. Stanford Report. (2005). Print.
Westley, Frances, and Henry Mintzberg. "Visionary leadership and strategic management." Strategic management journal 10.S1 (1989): 17-32.
Paczkowski, John “Willful, Mercurial Ex-Hippie and Computer Genius” AllthingsD. 9, Feb 2012. web <>
Kinneavy, James; Catherine Eskin (2000). "Kairos in Aristotle's Rhetoric". Written Communication 17 (3): 432–444.
Gallo, Carmine; One Simple Rule That Makes Apple Presentations 'Apple-Esque' Forbes Sept. 2014

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Free Rhetorical Analysis Of Stanford Speech Given By Steve Jobs Essay Sample. Free Essay Examples - Published Mar 25, 2021. Accessed October 02, 2023.

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